59: April Showers

59: April Showers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

April Showers

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue.

~Adam Clarke

“Winter storm on the way!” the radio blared. I glanced out the window. Dark clouds were already forming above our small subdivision in rural Illinois. Just then, I heard, “Mom! Mom!” In blew my three bundled-up boys and a crisp October wind.

“Mom!” cried five-year-old Robin. “There’s a cat down in the ground!”

“Oh. You mean someone’s cat’s been buried?”

“No, Mom! Please! Come see! She needs help!”

Six eager hands pulled me outside to the curb. “Can’t you hear it?”

Yes, I could—a very faint meow, floating right up from the storm drain!

Chat, almost four, squinted down into the darkness. “Maybe we could drop her a rope.”

Two-and-a-half-year-old Jay started calling, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!”

By now a crowd of neighborhood children had gathered around. “This storm sewer drains across the street,” one of the older boys explained. “If we go down to the opening and call, maybe she’ll come out.”

At the culvert opening, the children took turns shouting, “Kitty! Kitty!” Finally, when Jay called, out she came. Muddy, wet, bone-thin, with a woefully deformed tail. But alive.

“Whose cat is she?” I asked.

“No one’s,” piped up one of the girls. “Her old owners kicked her down there to get rid of her.”

“Well, she’s ours now,” Robin announced. “ ‘Cause Jay’s the one she came out for.”

Back at the house, we wiped the pathetic creature off the best we could. Then, looking around for something to feed her, I filled a bowl of milk.

She ignored the bowl completely and sat and washed herself all over. Now we could see that she was a longhair with striking black-and-white markings. Only when she was immaculate did she turn to the milk. Even then, instead of gulping it down, she sipped daintily, stopping to clean her whiskers from time to time.

“Look at that!” my husband Don exclaimed. “A real lady!”

And that’s how Ladycat came to be with us.

Just in time, too. For all night long we were hit with wave after wave of pounding rain. By morning it had changed to snow.

But inside, our home glowed with the joy of a new playmate. For hours on end, Ladycat would play balls, blocks, and cars with three enchanted boys. She blossomed under this love. But two things about her sad past remained: her deformed tail (perhaps broken in that kick down the storm drain), and her need to go outside and hunt for at least an hour every night.

From then on, frozen days rolled into frozen weeks of 10, 20, and 30 degrees below zero. Then on Valentine’s Day all three boys got chickenpox—Chat so severely, he went into a coma and had to be hospitalized. His brothers begged me not to let Ladycat out that night, in case something happened to her as well.

But the air that evening was spring-like, with just a little drizzle. “Don’t worry, she’ll be right back,” I assured them.

Quickly, though, that drizzle turned into a wild rainstorm. And for the very first time, Ladycat did not come back. All night long, I listened for her. But I only heard the rain. Until it stopped and everything froze.

The next morning, Don’s car slid all over the glass-slick road as he headed off on his long commute to work. But I couldn’t call him to see if he got there okay. I couldn’t even call the hospital fifteen miles away to check on Chat. Or turn on the radio. Or lights. Or heater. For under the weight of that ice, all the power and phone lines had snapped. Our furnace and water heater were inoperable. In fact, nothing worked but our gas stove. Soon it was so cold inside, the boys had to be bundled up in their snowsuits all day long. It was complete misery with those itching pox!

By evening, both boys had bronchitis. But sick as they were, they kept going to the window, looking and calling for their missing pet.

In the middle of the night, Don woke up in excruciating pain and a grossly swollen abdomen. Even though the house was freezing cold (it was 20 below outside and not much warmer inside), his whole body was afire.

“Don!” I gasped. “I think you have appendicitis!”

Normally I would have called the doctor or 911. But with the lines down, I couldn’t even call my neighbors next door. Don needed to go to the hospital right away. But Robin and Jay were far too sick to take out into that frigid air. Don would have to go alone.

As quickly as possible, I packed him in ice, covered that with towels, threw a winter coat over his pajamas, and sent him out into the bitter night—praying he’d be able to make it to the hospital without passing out. Or ending up in a wreck.

By the next day, Robin, Jay, and I all had pneumonia. But so did almost everyone else for miles around. Only the most critically ill could be admitted to the local hospital. In fact, Don had to sit in a waiting room all that night—with a ruptured appendix, peritonitis, and double pneumonia—before they could even find a bed for him.

But finally, after a week, the power and phones returned. After two weeks, so did Don. And after three weeks, Chat did, too. But not our missing cat.

February blurred into March, one storm following another. The same with illnesses.

“It’s all because Ladycat left,” Robin sobbed one day. “Doesn’t she love us anymore?”

“God knows where Ladycat is,” Chat replied weakly. “I’m going to pray and ask Him to bring her back home to us for Jay’s third birthday!”

On April 2nd, just a few days away? What an impossible prayer!

The last day of March was as white, cold, and dreary as ever. But the wind shifted. And on April 1st, the skies opened up.

“Look, children!” I cried. “April showers! It’s raining cats and dogs!”

“Cats?” Jay cried. “Is Ladycat here?”

“She will be,” Chat assured him. “For your birthday. God will bring her back.”

Changing the subject, I asked, “So what do you want for your birthday tomorrow, Jay?”

“Ladycat. Just Ladycat.”

That evening the rain finally let up. Then at the dinner table, Robin suddenly asked, “Who’s at the front door?”

“Ladycat!” Jay shouted.

All three boys ran to the door, flinging it open. A biting wind roared in—followed by a tiny, mud-covered creature, barely able to move.

Don jumped up. “Quick! Get her some food!”

But as feeble as she was, the cat slowly, painfully cleaned herself all over. Only then would she eat. Ladycat was back.

The next morning we retraced her tiny footsteps in the mud — all the way to the culvert where we had first found her. Ever since the ice storm—that night she had disappeared—the opening had been completely frozen over. She had been down there the entire time, subsisting on mice and snow, until finally freed by the previous day’s warm April showers.

Arriving home just in time for Jay’s birthday.

Just as three little boys and God knew she would be.

~Bonnie Compton Hanson

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